Democrats call for special prosecutor to investigate clearing of protesters outside White House

Democrats call for special prosecutor to investigate clearing of protesters outside White House
© Greg Nash

More than 80 House Democrats on Thursday called for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate an incident in which law enforcement broke up a peaceful protest outside the White House.

In a letter to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump: Washington/Lincoln ticket would have had hard time beating me before pandemic Trump says Barr 'never' told him he thought he'd lose election Speeches aren't enough: Biden must ditch bipartisanship, endorse ending filibuster MORE led by Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineLobbying world Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills Top Democrat leads bipartisan trip to Middle East MORE (D-R.I.), the lawmakers expressed alarm over the use of tear gas, pepper balls and other devices to disperse the crowd in Lafayette Square. The suppression of the protest, which was reportedly directed by Barr, was followed by a photo opportunity at a nearby church for President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE and other administration officials.

“We could not understand why such aggressive tactics were used … until we saw the President, yourself, and several senior White House officials walk through the site of the protest to film a cynical, political propaganda video that the White House later released through social media,” Cicilline wrote.

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“Given the issues at stake, and your evident role in suppressing the right of the American people to redress their grievances, it is clear that a special prosecutor must be appointed to investigate your actions and the actions of all executive branch officials involved in this action," he added.

The demonstration was one of several across the country to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis.

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Democrats have come out in force against the Monday incident, with a number of lawmakers from the party calling on Barr to resign after reports emerged of his involvement in the suppression of the protest.

The Washington, D.C., National Guard has also asked for an investigation into the use of a helicopter in the city to disperse the crowds, and the U.S. Park Police has maintained that “no tear gas was used,” but acknowledged using smoke canisters and pepper balls.

Should he appoint a special prosecutor, Barr would have the power to set the subject jurisdiction of the probe. 

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding the Democrats’ letter.